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June 17, 2005

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tootsie

Life has never been about "a thing"it's always been about "human being"That's like Oprah's & John d saying money not important

Temple3

I hear you, and you're absolutely correct, but that was not my intention...in "being" I am referring to the process of navigating the emotional, spiritual, personal and material world. The tangible is not separate from our being in the world - and so our being is not reduced to the things we have or don't have - but our mastery of self and surroundings (not necessarily read as domination) should be quantifiable and tangible...if you have a gift for carpentry, we should see a tangible product...Oprah has created thousands of products for people to see evidence of her mastery of self - her show, her movies, her sponsorships, schools in Africa, her marathon experience...so my meaning is not to take "being" away from the world of "things" - but to say that Blackness is not a static THING to be - or simply a biological encoding...it is a lived phenomenon that is, at its heart, dynamic.

Negrorage

"Life has never been about 'a thing' it's always been about 'human being'."

Temple 3,
Our lines seems to have gotten crossed. This is my fault for not ordering the posts in chronological order. Negrorage really should be read sequentially. This is just laziness on my part. The Thing to Be/Way of Being language is simply a dialectical tool. A language expreiment if you will. I am far from believing that Black is literally a "thing". I explained my Thing to Be idea in a post way back in February of this year. The "Thing" in Thing to Be is symbolic. I quote myself for reference:

http://www.negrorage.com/index.php?p=19
".....‘Black’ or ‘white’ as an indicator of race, would have to be understood as a thing-to-be only insofar as it is a thing that is able to be made or produced. ‘Black’ or ‘white’ as a thing-to-be would have to be understood as a thing to be, only insofar as it can be created on the assembly line of human nature...." In my latest post I refer to it as, "The Blackness that Nature created". It is a "static thing" only insofar as Black mothers continue to pop out Black babies. "Static" only in the sense that the Blacks just keep on comin'.

I gather that you have some reservations about my theory of Blacknes, but I think we can eliminate most of the initial misunderstandings, and then go from there.

You say: "Simply, Blackness is not a singular way of being..." We agree on this point. Black is not a capital 'B' way of Being, metaphysically, epistemologically, and philosophically speaking. However, you go on to say that: "but it is a way of being because it is a metaphor for identity; and identity is lived (dynamically, and in relationship to other identities) - and not a literal expression of culture...". You're basically saying, "It isn't...but its kinda is...". I think this is where we necessarily part ways. You seem to take identity as both your point of departure and your point of destination in your theory of Blackness. And although identity is not a literal expression of culture, one would still have to allow for the possibility that "identity" is shaped both by and within the larger "culture". Otherwise, we could not speak of such things as 'cultural identity'. You seem to be saying that Black is a way of being; and that this way of being is rooted firmly in the idea of 'identity'. And because identity is lived in relation to other identities; and hence dynamic, it follows there are many ways of being Black. Or, put another way, that there are many "Black" ways of being. This, at least, seems to be your general position. Simply put, I agree with this positon. But this is where we part ways. I do not think that this positon is free of cultural difficulties It presents a litany of cultural difficulties which are so numerous and so great that I am in favor of abondoning this positon altogether. Here is what I wrote on February 23, 2005:

http://www.negrorage.com/index.php?p=18
"It seems that when one begins to conceive of 'black' as a way-of-being or as an attribute to be applied to certain ways of doings things one necessarily opens the door to many ways-of-being black. But this becomes problematic when a judgement is made about someone who has or appears to have a different way-of-being black from a moral standpoint. Thinking about 'black' as a way-of-being can be problematic because it allows black people to judge other black people based upon their moral conception or framework of the way-to-be black: it takes 'black' as a thing-to-be and divides it into different ways-of-being black. Hence, one can cease to be 'black' as a thing-to-be simply because they have a different way-of-being black!"

Insofar as morality is part and parcel of any human 'identity', your identity-centric position fails to take into account the nature of morality in human nature. You believe that Blackness is a symbol of a "shared cultural identity": this claim is not without its problems. Within society, what one group of Blacks may esteem as being part and parcel of "our shared cultural identity", another group may esteem as an affront to "our shared cultural identity". I suppose you would say that all of these cultural disagreements are "valid expressions of ways of being black"; but your framework essentially allows "valid expressions of ways of being black" to be invalidated by other Blacks from a purely moral standpoint along phenotypical lines (thus obliterating a key distinction between race and ontology). But I don't suppose that you would say that its a "valid expression of ways of being black" when one Black person tells another that he/she is "acting White" or "not Black enough for me".

In short, I disagree with your theory of Blackness because Blackness is not culturally seamless in this conceptual framework: it runs the risk of becoming corrupted by the moralities of weaker men; a case in which Blackness begins to degrade into a type of cultural/political tyranny. To use a better example, some of us claim (or it is thought) that voting uncritically for the Democratic party is part and parcel of "our shared cultural identity" on a national level; and that anything else is an affront to "our shared cultural identity"; in short, NOT voting Democtatic can be thought to be "morally" reprehensible along phenotypical lines; thus placing a cultural limit on the "valid expressions of ways of being black" which you seek to esteem; the same type of limits on vaild expressions of black ways of being which were used by white racists for hundreds of years to keep us down. Which is why I am in favor of altogether abandoning the notion that "Black" is a way of being; capital 'B' Being or otherwise: when Black is thought to be a way of being, it runs the risk of becoming an affront to freedom and liberty proper. We can "accept" or "reject" these "shared elements" to the point of poltical and cultural tyranny. Personally, I would not be averse to altogether abandoning the idea of an "authentic" culture.

And as far a common culture goes, we're already living it. Come on, a bunch of Black dudes arguing about the finer points of culture? Does it get any better than this?

Lester Spence


To use a better example, some of us claim (or it is thought) that voting uncritically for the Democratic party is part and parcel of "our shared cultural identity" on a national level; and that anything else is an affront to "our shared cultural identity"; in short, NOT voting Democtatic can be thought to be "morally" reprehensible along phenotypical lines; thus placing a cultural limit on the "valid expressions of ways of being black" which you seek to esteem; the same type of limits on vaild expressions of black ways of being which were used by white racists for hundreds of years to keep us down.
This is the pivot. Black people in the aggregate do not blindly choose the democratic party, nor do they blindly critique black men and women who vote otherwise. On these two points the data is very clear. Where do you get the information to make these aggregate level claims?

cnulan

Spence,

NR has no data.

Look through the awesome expanse of verbiage he has produced and you will quickly see an immense and ultimately hollow exercise in verbal logic. By allowing symbols and symbol manipulation to completely stand-in for data and for the meaning of experiences of black interpersonal communion -and conflating the former with the latter two...., NR has gotten himself lost and egoically invested in the exercise.

Blackness is really very simple - once you've experienced it. It is for this very reason that I have equated high black culture with orthodox Christianity - though the causal factors underlying the emergence of each human aggregation are quite different. What we are concerned with is the emergent properties arising from said aggregation. In this case, the effect on the individuals so configured was nearly identical - as one might expect if one believes in egalitarian humaness.

Blackness is not a race...., as Christianity is not a religion; it is a Church - the Church, the Kingdom come, God’s people called out of the world unto Him, and the Communion of Saints. That is, Christianity is not my personal and private salvation through Jesus. As the Body of Christ, it is a deifying process of becoming a communion of persons mutually participating in the Uncreated Energies of the Life of the Trinity and increasingly after its Likeness.

Interpersonal communion as a catalyst to intrapersonal communion is the most powerful mode of psychological development available to human beings. If you invert Matthew 7:3 it not only indicates that the individual cannot see his own shortcomings and should therefore be slow to judge others, rather, it simultaneously (esoterically) indicates that others can see the individual more clearly - and if so inclined - assist him in achieving an objective view of his ultimate nature, i.e., developing toward realization of his psychological potential.

I believe that as a people, the now fragmented black cultural diasporans were once engaged in precisely such an interpersonal/intrapersonal communion. Moreover, that it was our compression in segregated communities that gave rise to a psychological and developmental chain reaction that produced the extraordinary individual and group results for which I and others feel nostalgic. (:

We can of course get to the particulars which evidence this unfamiliar analogy, however, getting to the particulars presumes a deep empirical familiarity with both authentic Christian praxis and high black culture.

Viewing the historical record, one is compelled to acknowledge something extraordinary about a group of people which sought to fully exemplify American ideals in the face of continual persecution and vicious and hateful oppression.

Temple3

NR -

I think you may be compelled to agree with more of what I wrote than you thought. For example...

You wrote...
"Insofar as morality is part and parcel of any human 'identity', your identity-centric position fails to take into account the nature of morality in human nature. You believe that Blackness is a symbol of a "shared cultural identity": this claim is not without its problems. Within society, what one group of Blacks may esteem as being part and parcel of "our shared cultural identity", another group may esteem as an affront to "our shared cultural identity". I suppose you would say that all of these cultural disagreements are "valid expressions of ways of being black"; but your framework essentially allows "valid expressions of ways of being black" to be invalidated by other Blacks from a purely moral standpoint along phenotypical lines (thus obliterating a key distinction between race and ontology). But I don't suppose that you would say that its a "valid expression of ways of being black" when one Black person tells another that he/she is "acting White" or "not Black enough for me"."

However, with respect to the issue of morality, I wrote:
"but blackness is about the multiplicity of ways of being...and besides, I believe you are what you say you are. If you say you're black, then you are - regardless of "how you act" because we've got it all in the collective...and if you say you aren't, then you aren't regardless of your actions and your phenotype...because if you don't vibe with someone, that is the end of the ballgame...if you do vibe, then it's all good. I don't vibe with Sowell and negro apologists because I think they're hired guns with small brains, but I like my man Stanley Crouch - not word for word, but I don't like my daddy word for word - and I don't have to."

So, in no way am I suggesting that a determination about blackness is contingent on a similar "moral" approach...in fact, I don't place much stock in morality, per se. It has a place, but so does immorality. "Blacker than thou" is usually born of some BS, but under no circumstances do I believe I should suffer the ignorance of fools.

Let's take your example of voting for the dismalcrats...in the absence of a relationship, discourse and shared, committed action, the choice of voting options can degenerate into exactly the type of mudslinging you describe...however, that says more about the person caught up in trying to defend a decision - because for me, someone has to defend the dismalcrats. I don't have to do a damned thing but listen to their lame-ass excuses and move on. So, its no sweat for me...it's not a challenge to my blackness. Blackness is not at issue for me...it's only at issue for someone for whom blackness is an issue. And, that is about grounding - a fundamental point of belonging to any collective - if you are grounded, you can't get punk'd by someone on whether or not you vote for white democrats...that would be ridiculous. If that happens, you gotta check yourself because the end is imminent.

The essence of my point is that Blackness is not really about cultural tyranny...small minds use the vehicle at their disposal - if its blackness, its blackness; if its money, its money. Small minds are essentially bullies - and to conflate the notion that there is no authentic, dynamic blackness with the tactics of bullies is to suggest that even our social constructions have no context - when in fact, social constructions must necessarily have a context. Just because a cultural bully or any other kind of bully attempts to define something does not make it so. It's like Thomas Jefferson or Francis Scott Key or Newt Gingrich trying to talk about democracy and human liberty - after you finish laughing at the bull, its kind of sad - typical bully s***.

Our cultural identities (plural) is a way of being that is subject to debate and criticism by others. So what? Blackness, to the extent that there are "loyalists" or traditionalists will always attack so-called heresies, but the legacy of our spiritual sojourn has revealed the danger - and the value of heresy. Little Richard was a heretic. So was Prince. Not anymore. So, Blackness is life to the extent that debates over its nature have proponents, opponents, detractors and benefactors.

I am inclined to restate that only 4% of Africans in the world reside in the US. There is too much work to do to seek to limit that which cannot be limited...we (Africans) have been here since it all began...we are who we be.

Negrorage

Spence,

First, your use of the word "aggregate" is deceptive. For me, the expression "in the aggregate" translates into "in the disparate collective". An "aggregate" is a whole which is formed by combining several (typically disparate) elements. Everything is "prefragmented" in a "disparate collective". In Iraq, both the Sunnis and Shiites are accounted for "in the aggregate". But in terms of positive cultural output, we can hardly speak of a collective "whole" in which the "collective" is unfragmented, insofar as they continue to wage ideological war against one another "in the aggregate". In a discussion in which we have touched upon such sophisticated concepts as "cultural authenticity", "shared cultural identity", and "high black culture", using the word "aggregate" to describe it all, simply doesn't work. We are debating culture and your use of the word "aggregate" in this context is highly dubious. You want us to think about Blackness as a whole in which cultural disparities exist while never stopping to consider the degree to which Blackness is being used (often unnecessarily) to create further cultural disparities. You display an amazing patience for the cultural fragmentation which detracts from the possibility of authenticity. At best, you could have said that my Democrat/Republican example did not made a good case for the potential degeneration of cultural Blackness into cultural tyranny. At which point it would have simply been a case of your cultural optimism versus my cultural pessimism. "Black people in the aggregate do not blindly choose the democratic party, nor do they blindly critique black men and women who vote otherwise." Please. You turn a deaf ear to whats being said and then go look for "data" to help you hear more clear. If you honestly cannot see that certain U.S. Blacks indeed do blindly critique other U.S. Blacks according to political affiliation, without some sort of "data" right in front of you, then you need to get out of the house more. I hear people calling Black Republicans "Uncle Toms" and ask: "How is it possible for them to do what they are doing" You hear the same thing and ask: "Where’s the data?" At some point we have to ask ourselves, why do these disparities continue to exist "in the aggregate"?

Nulan,

Are you so obsessed with "data", "facts", and "information" that you have turned a deaf ear to what is coming out of the mouths of the Black folk? In a discussion of culture there are no "facts", there are only "interpretations". Are you a business major or an engineer or something? Is that why you seemingly love numbers so much? It is obvious that each one of us is convinced of their own claim and are therefore disdainful of proof.

"NR has no data. Look through the awesome expanse of verbiage he has produced and you will quickly see an immense and ultimately hollow exercise in verbal logic. By allowing symbols and symbol manipulation to completely stand-in for data and for the meaning of experiences of black interpersonal communion -and conflating the former with the latter two...., NR has gotten himself lost and egoically invested in the exercise."

Wow. Your ad hominem critique and brilliant psychoanalysis of me notwithstanding, I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed. "Data" does not give meaning to culture. For the most part, culture is largely symbolic anyhow. When Smith and Carlos put on the black gloves in the '68 Olympics....was it "data" that compelled them to do so? I'm sure they were in the back after the race doing some hellafied number crunching when they decided, "You know what? According to these figures we need to go out here and put our fists in the air with these black gloves on." I suppose that you would say here, that statistically speaking, a cultural symbol of Black Power needed to be represented at the Olympics at that particular time in '68. Culturally speaking, "data" and "facts" do not provide us with an objective meaning. Its the distinction between "facts" and "values". Two people can look at the same "data" but then have wildly different conclusions with regards to the "meaning" or "value" of those "facts". In order to give "meaning" to any "fact" you have to subjectively apply "value" to the "fact". One person looks at the U.S. Black prison "data" and makes one conclusion (racist system, etc...) while another person looks at the same "data" and makes another (Blacks are more criminal, etc...).

I assume you follow Temple3 in believing that "blackness is about the multiplicity of ways of being". Now, in your esteemed opinion, is there an order of rank among these sundry ways of being in such a way that we could objectively say that one way of being was superior to the others? Apparently you seem to think so, since you "have equated high black culture with orthodox Christianity". And I assume that you hold "high" culture in opposition to "low" culture.
The "highest" Black culture is the Black culture in which "acting White" doesn't exist. (You'll say, "Where is the 'data' which proves that acting White exists in the aggregate?" --even though countless people have heard it said countless times in their neighborhood.) The "highest" Black culture is the Black culture in which moral judgments are not made across phenotypical lines. Egoic investments aside, your obsession with "data" blinds you to what is coming out of the mouths of the Black folk.

Riddle me this, what is the meaning of “black” (the adjective) in your theory of interpersonal communication?

Temple3,

It seems as if you are the only one with whom a constructive discourse is possible.

Here is what we have agreed on: "Black" isn't a singular way of Being.

You seem to be saying simply, that "authentic Blackness" is actually that dynamic (cultural) Blackness in which the meaning of Blackness is subject to debate and criticism, more or less according to lived experience. You would have us believe that Blackness is an objective structure of cultural meaning in which the meaning of Blackness is evaluated subjectively in the collective, but objectively according to the experience of the individual. For you, Black as a way of Being is more or less a running cultural discourse. If you took a top-down isometric view of America and wanted to look at Blackness in terms of a disparate collective (or "aggregate") of individuals in order to call that "authentic Blackness" I wouldn't disagree (although this is not usually what is meant when we speak about "authentic Blackness" and yours seems like a type of redefinition). I am not denying the existence of the Blackness that is subject to debate and criticism by others and in which people debate its nature according to their experience/opinion. Nor am I denying its existence due to my pessimism towards small-minded race-men (or bullies). Our disagreement turns upon a question of aesthetics. What is the extent to which you are willing to let morality rule over culture? The position that black isn't a way of being is fundamentally an immoralist's position. And although you've stated otherwise with regards to your position on morality, your allegiance to the proliferation of Old School "values" makes you a moralist. I suspect that in a sense, you *need* black to exist as a type of way of being in order to proliferate your "values". The closest that we have come to abandoning the tired procedure of making moral judgments across phenotyical lines is best represented in the Hip-Hop generation. On the question of integration, its the Old School moralists versus the Hip-Hop immoralists. My money is on the latter.

“The essence of my point is that Blackness is not really about cultural tyranny...small minds use the vehicle at their disposal - if its blackness, its blackness; if its money, its money.” Once again, we agree. All I am doing is describing the procedure by which these small minds get a hold of Blackness. In every case, they do it by seizing upon “Black” as a way of (B)being. Supposing one of these “small-minds” is a charismatic and popular political figure? Why can’t we (the people) deny them this move?

All of you:

Do you have a disdain for what I'm saying simply because what I'm saying "sounds bad" to you? When I picture you reading the words "not a way of Being", I picture you disagreeing more with the formulation of the words than the actual content and meaning of the proposition.
All of you seem to frame things in terms of the disparate collective. But you guys saying that "everything is accounted for in the aggregate" is nothing more than a cultural truism. Its the equivalent of me saying, "In America, people do what they do." Still to this day, U.S. Blacks can be observed making moral judgments across phenotypical lines. And you're tacit acknowledgement of this as simply "existing in the aggregate" is tantamount to a type of functional nihilism. Its real, and its a problem; no "data" needed. Obama knows it too:

“Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t
teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can’t achieve
unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander
that says a black youth with a book is acting white.”
Senator Barack Obama, 2004 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address

Lester Spence


If you honestly cannot see that certain U.S. Blacks indeed do blindly critique other U.S. Blacks according to political affiliation, without some sort of "data" right in front of you, then you need to get out of the house more.


What US Blacks? Under what circumstances? How many? Are they the exception or the rule? How did you choose these "certain US Blacks"? When you talk about "blind critique" what do you mean? Under your logic, if three of my partners out of 12 million black people "blindly critiqued" black republicans, then black people would have a problem. Is this what you believe?


I hear people calling Black Republicans "Uncle Toms" and ask: "How is it possible for them to do what they are doing" You hear the same thing and ask: "Where’s the data?" At some point we have to ask ourselves, why do these disparities continue to exist "in the aggregate"?


What disparities? What people? How many? Where are they? If you can't answer these questions objectively, how can you refer to them as a problem worthy of thousands of words, much less a couple of dozen?


Are you so obsessed with "data", "facts", and "information" that you have turned a deaf ear to what is coming out of the mouths of the Black folk?

No. We are both highly skeptical of claims about "black folk" and "black people" that are not backed by data other than the anecdotal (i.e. "i heard so and so calling someone an uncle tom"). Your arguments against "blackness" are simply not data-driven...they come from some other place. And while disaggregating black people into individuals (John John, Myrtle, Imani, etc.) may make sense for some endeavors, it makes absolutely NO sense to make arguments about a monolithic "black folk" based on what a few individuals do.

Temple3

Rage

Quick point and back to the mix - this Old School - HipHop juxtaposition dudn't work for me. I'm 36 so my old school may not look like your daddy's old school.

And hip hop's immoralists are a SPECIFIC GROUP OF people - it ain't evrybdy. Public Enemy is not the same as 50 is not the same as Scarface is not the same as XClan is not the same as Common is not the same as Capone N Noriega is not the same as Eminem is not the same as Ice Cube is not the same as ya dig.

And the OLD SCHOOL moralists are a SPECIFIC GROUP OF people - it ain't everybody there either...Nat King Cole is not the same as Marvin Gaye is not the same as The Winans is not the same as Teddy Pendergrass is not the same as post-hot-grits Al Green is not the same as pre-hot-grits Al Green. Lotta OLD School people have amnesia about their music and lifestyle being just as "immoral" as it is today. Still, so what - except to the extent it precludes small minds from building bridges.


On another post, I was talking about the timeless VALUE of Little Richard as a "heretic" from the orthodoxy of the music and mores of his time. I don't know how you truly feel about intergenerational things, but this has absolutely nothing to do with Old School and Hip Hop. As Exhibit A, I submit time traveler, producer, composer, organizer, leader and visionary Quincy Jones.

And, again, this moralizing thing is not part of my process - so, I'll let you wrestle with how you think it informs my understanding of Old and Hip. I am not in the business of judging folks beyond determining if I want them in my personal space (can I work with you? can I live with you? can I love you? can I play with you?)- aside from that, I don't have the time, energy or interest. And god forbid if I made that judgment on something as hollow as a "party" affiliation. ha ha ha ha ha!

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